In The Lord Take Refuge

“In Yahweh I take refuge; How can you say to my soul, ‘Flee as a bird to your mountain; For, behold, the wicked bend the bow, they make ready their arrow upon the string to shoot in darkness at the upright in heart. If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?’”

Psalm 11:1-3

Psalm 11 begins in catastrophe, calamity, and despair. We aren’t given the exact circumstance this Psalm was written in, but we do know it must have been during an intense time in David’s life. 

In this Psalm, David is given counsel that seems prudent and practical on the surface.

“In Yahweh I take refuge; How can you say to my soul, ‘Flee as a bird to your mountain; For, behold, the wicked bend the bow, they make ready their arrow upon the string to shoot in darkness at the upright in heart. If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?’” (Ps. 11:1-3)

This is not a minor political squabble. No one counsels the king to flee except in times of violence or rebellion.

The wicked bend their bow. They have fitted their arrow. They are on the attack. They are armed and ready for battle. And who are their targets but the righteous, the upright in heart? David, as king, seems to be their primary target.

Fleeing seems like sound advice to David and it would look like sound advice for Christians today, bombarded with daily news of injustice and societal collapse. Each new login to social media brings some new controversy, and some new evil to our attention.

We look at our personal circumstances; we look at injustice in this world; we look at wicked men and women thriving, ruling, and reigning; we look at police brutality; we look at 60 million babies murdered in the womb since 1973.

In the face of such injustice, hatred, depravity, and despair, what can the righteous do? 

How does David respond? He does not take this advice, nor does he look to his feelings or his surroundings.

He looks up. He looks to God.

“In Yahweh I take refuge,” is his reply. Who is this Lord, and where is he during these times?

“Yahweh is in His holy temple; Yahweh’s throne is in heaven; His eyes behold, His eyelids test the sons of men” (Ps. 11:4).

The Lord reigns and the Lord sees; he tests the righteous and brings justice on the wicked. 

When we view this Psalm as a whole, we find a pyramid-like structure. It begins and ends with the righteous taking refuge in or beholding to the Lord. The middle point has the highest level of tension. In this moment, verse 4 reminds us that the Lord is on his throne even during the worst times of our lives.

Even if the foundations of our lives and society fall, and even if we find the foundations we trusted in were false, the Lord reigns. His foundations cannot be touched. And those who trust in Him will find their strength renewed.

n David’s reply is a reminder of what God can do in these dire circumstances

“Yahweh tests the righteous, but the wicked and the one who loves violence His soul hates. May He rain snares upon the wicked; Fire and brimstone and burning wind will be the portion of their cup” (Ps. 11:5-‬6)‬

Arrows can do damage. They can maim and kill. They can bring death and destruction, and overturn nations. In the hands of the wicked, they can steal, kill, and destroy. Death is serious. But that’s the most it can do. After death, what more can the wicked do to the righteous? 

If we compare the strength of the wicked with the weapons at God’s disposal, we will see there is no practical comparison to be made. The holy and just judgment from an eternal being utterly consumes the wicked and leaves no trace. Their words and works will be scorched and burned and, like chaff, blown away by the wind. 

Christ, in one of his sermons, made a similar comparison. 

“And do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28).

God created everything out of nothing. He sat on his throne during the reign of Rome, and he will be sitting there long after more nations rise and fall. 

That was David’s encouragement during disastrous times. The same God who ruled and reigned over his life, with all its ups and downs, does the same still today. 

The kingdom of God is eternal because God himself is eternal. There is our hope, our Rock, Our very present help in time of need. 

With all today’s uncertainties, injustices, and causes of despair, may we remind ourselves who our God is. Our Lord, the Supreme Being of the universe who created and sustains everything, is righteous and loves righteous deeds. And“the upright will behold his face” (Ps. 11:7).

Even when it doesn’t look like we can do anything to fight the oppression of the wicked, even when our sin seeks to destroy us, even when the world around us experiences calamity, and even when it looks like the world, the flesh, and the devil are winning every battle, the Lord is our refuge. 

The Lord is sovereign. He rules and reigns. He mends the broken-hearted. He enacts vengeance on the wicked and fulfills justice for the righteous. And we will behold his face.

For further reading
The Flow of the Psalms: Discovering Their Structure and Theology by O. Palmer Robertson
The Way of the Righteous in the Muck of Life: Psalms 1–12 by Dale Ralph Davis
Learning to Love the Psalms by W. Robert Godfrey
The Hammer of God by Bo Giertz
Joseph L. Hamrick III


Joseph L. Hamrick III is a Reformed Baptist Christian who serves as a deacon at Commerce Community Church (C3) in Commerce, TX, where he and his wife, Jesse, live. Joseph holds a BA in Liberal Studies from the Texas A&M University-Commerce and works for the Herald-Banner in Greenville, TX where he writes about the Christian life in his column entitled “Things to Consider”. When he is not at work, he can usually be found with a Bible, a work of Dostoevsky, or some other book in his hands.

February 2, 2024

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